As animal lovers, we enjoy the companionship and affection our best friends offer. Sometimes we get the “fur-baby fever” and want more and more! However, as easy as it is to say “let’s get another dog!” one of the biggest challenges a pet owner may face is introducing a new pet to their current one.
Animals are just like us. They have preferences, and most importantly, they form relationships. It’s imperative that you as the middle man make sure the transition of introducing your new pet to your current one goes as smoothly as possible. Not just for yourself, but for the animals as well.
To get some expert knowledge on such an important matter, Canine Concierge was able to get the inside scoop from someone who not only works with but understands animals and their behaviors! We spoke to Linda Hartheimer (Dog Savvy), a local, experienced trainer and business owner, who kindly answered some questions most people have when adopting a new pet.
For any business inquiries or questions you can reach Linda either by phone or email at: (201) 638-5836; firstname.lastname@example.org. Check her out!
Q: What are some expected behaviors a cat or dog may exhibit to a new pet?
A: There are so many factors that come into play, everything from age of the current pet to the age of the new pets, gender, whether they are used to other animals and the kinds of animals, level of training. The behaviors can range from play to aggression, to ignoring the new pet; fear of the new pet or a neutral reaction.
Q: Does breed influence certain interactions?
A: Breed definitely comes into play here. Some breeds have a high prey drive and their instinct is to hunt and that may have them see a new animal in the house as prey, or certain breeds have an instinct to guard and may see the new animal as an intruder or may be protective of the new pet. One thing to be aware of is that each breed was bred for a purpose and certain traits are instinctual so no matter how much training, you cannot extinguish the instinct, but depending on the level of training, control it. Certain breeds are known to get along with other breeds of dogs or other animals.
Q: How long could the introduction and assimilation period last?
A: This can take weeks to months depending on the age of the pets involved, their experience with other animals and temperaments of the pets.
Q: What are the most effective and safest methods for introducing a new pet?
A: There is no one most effective method, per se, however, having the animals meet on neutral ground, away from the home with both pets on a loose leash with a quick 3-second introduction, then walking together is a great start. Allowing, say, two dogs walked by two people to have a casual, not forced interaction, and then going for a walk allowing the dogs to just get used to each other without any pressure.
Once home, leaving leashes on the dogs but letting them drag on the floor in case you need to separate the dogs is a good technique. Also, if you are introducing a new puppy, the puppy should have a short drag line and not be allowed to bother the older dog. Baby gates are another great way to allow pets to co-exist and get used to each other without the pressure of being in the same space.
Q: What training techniques can be useful?
A: For the humans, wine and chocolate, to be relaxed and calm! Remember to have patience and reward any good behavior whether it is with food, toys or praise. If you know you will be bringing a new pet into the home, taking a refresher basic or even an advanced obedience class will help you not only gain better control of your dog but help build your relationship. It is also helpful to understand canine body language and keep a close eye on the dogs to observe any stress or possible aggression.
Q: What are things to absolutely avoid?
A: Never leave pets that you aren’t 100% sure about them getting along, unattended. Sadly, there are many stories of dogs killing cats or a horrible dog fight, when they have been left unsupervised. Also, avoid forcing dogs to interact. Not all dogs love other dogs or puppies but can happily co-exist with them in the same household. Remember to give your existing pet just as much love and attention as the new one or it will create jealousy.
Q: What are a few ways to reduce conflict if an interaction doesn’t go well?
A: Stay calm and separate the dogs for a time out. If the dogs are crate trained, crating them next to each other will allow them to safely get used to the other dog being near them without any pressure. Baby gates, at the appropriate height, are also great for separating dogs while still allowing them to see and smell the other dog.
If cats are involved, the cat must have a way to escape from the dog to a safe area. When reintroducing the dogs, try to do it in a more open space so they do not feel closed in and also have a way to retreat from the other dog.